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Are You Trying To Be Little Miss Perfect?

little miss perfect, pressure, job search, career, life, anxiety, connection, engagement, expectations, humor, learning, marketing, perfectionismThis is a guest post by Joan Ramstedt.

One of my favorite all time books is “Little Miss Perfect” by Megan Le Boutillier, A friend gave it to me years ago when I was going through an especially difficult time and it sat on my bookshelf for nearly 20 years until one day, I picked it up and devoured the contents in one afternoon. I’d say that was “perfect timing” which leads me to this writing which is all about timing, process and passages.

In this book, the author describes how we learn to adapt our behaviors and belief systems to the environmental and perceived expectations of family, friends, communities and society. The more dysfunctional our “tribe” is, the more adapting we must do. As children, this reduces our ability to be spontaneous and creative. As adults we become more guarded, controlling (through people pleasing or outright domineering behaviors), fueled by our fear of making a mistakes and being exposed as imperfect.

We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves or set ideals and expectations that are impossible to achieve in order to feel a sense of acceptance and connection to “our tribe”.

This brings me to a class I am enrolled in at the local college. I entered the semester with the idea that I would have fun, spark my creativity and establish a theoretical foundation in marketing; one that I could incorporate into my own business and pass along to entrepreneurial clients.

Peppered with personal experience, humor and insight Dennis, the professor is especially skilled at turning the learning environment into one that is enjoyable, practical and informative which makes the experience fun and engaging. So the perfect mixture of ingredients is all there; ripe for the picking (or learning).

About three weeks into the class we were informed of the various tests and projects that were due over the next 16 weeks and by the way, he was teaching the class at an upper division university level.

So I’m thinking I already have my degree, this should be a piece of cake, until I started to prepare for the first exam.

The old questions of perfectionism starting forming in my mind. Am I smart enough; what happens if I fail, or don’t get an “A”. These concerns set up a pattern of expectations that turned into regular companions during the day and especially in the wee hours of the morning. Sleeplessness and anxiety intruded into my life all the while I asked myself “what is going on here?”….

I hadn’t felt this type of internalized pressure since I was an undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara. “Where was this coming from I asked?” Well, I passed first test with a higher than expected grade and breathed a temporary sigh of relief, but immediately started obsessing about the next 3 plus the big project that was due in May. This certainly didn’t feel like fun any longer. My initial strategy was to minimize the importance of the class, exercise more and pray for some level of relief, but the anxiety persisted.

Finally, I had to get serious and make some major perceptual adjustments. What finally came to me is that I needed to do was to let go, surrender, release control and remember who I am. The moment I decided I couldn’t control the outcome of the situation it freed up my need to have to get an “A”. Immediately, I started to feel the anxiety and tension literally peeling away.

With this decision, a sense of enjoyment flowed back into my life.

My energy increased, my ability to be who I really am; a normal healthy person with flaws and phobias, a great sense of humor and irony, who loves life and all its’ complexities came rushing back; and not a moment too soon because…..

This next leg of the journey involved creating a fairly complicated advertising plan for an imaginary client. With 10 unique people in my group I found it impossible (since I decided it was my sole responsibility to make certain it turned out well) to have everyone going the same direction simultaneously. I found myself taking things way too seriously, getting tense, rigid and dogmatic, (after all I knew the right way because I do this for a living) and irritated which of course drained every ounce of fun and enjoyment (for me and others, I suspect) out of the process.

This wasn’t working…So I decided again to change my attitude, and shift from how can I direct and control into how can I serve the bigger picture? An image of me as a teacher, coach, friend, learner and HUMAN emerged and I discovered great satisfaction sitting at the table with my classmates listening to and observing each person’s beautiful insights, unique gifts, contributions, and longing to be the best they can be.

At that moment, I started to feel a sense of belonging to a collective that was stronger than just one individual.

I had a real moment of gratitude and appreciation. I knew others could feel it too as one of the young men said something to the effect of “I’ve been in other groups and this one really seems connected; on the same page” I smiled outwardly and inwardly felt a swelling sense of pride to be a part of something larger than myself that had a purpose and I realized this is what I wanted all along.; to be me and be accepted by others for being exactly who I am. And I suspect that was a subtext for many in the group as well.

Written by: Joan Ramstedt
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Categories: Positive Attitude

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